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There is no finesse in Alex Diaz de la Portilla game, nor is there any doubt that he, along with his fellow Cuban commissioners and the Mayor have absolutely no qualms about ignoring the law or playing either the race or ethnicity card at the drop of a hat.
After less than 60 days as a city commissioner Diaz de la Portilla has gotten a true measure of who his fellow commissioners are, how easy they are to be manipulated or played out of pocket, and he's concluded that with an all but guaranteed majority on the 5 member commission comprised of himself and his his fellow Cubans, Joe Carollo and Manolo Reyes to back him up, he can pretty much say or do anything he pleases and what little push back he might get from Commissioners Russell and Hardemon, or even members of the public who have been caught off guard at what comes out of his mouth, can be openly ignored or treated like he would crumbs on his tie at a fancy meal paid for by the taxpayers.
Diaz de la Portilla is not alone in showing how little regard he has for appearances at commission meetings, and last week's meeting illustrated that not only are we not in Kansas anymore, but we're now in unchartered territory where commission meetings have in a very short period of time become time consuming exhibitions of commissioners clueless of the issues being discussed, engaging in veiled and not so-veiled efforts to further the demands of deep pocket donors who have issues that they want the commission to approve so as to allow them to get a return on their campaign contributions, and in Carollo's case, engaging in tiresome exhibitions of delusional paranoid conspiracy theories more and more devoted to railing against all of the people who he alleges are trying to target him or his wife, set him up to embarras or entrap him, or lying about him and generally doing everything they can to stop him from protecting the city from their allegedly conniving and underhanded schemes.
The problem with Carollo's delusional paranoid rants, besides being evidence of a real mental disorder, is that while some of them are based on shreds of reality, many more of them are either fabricated or taken out of context so as to portray him as a populist champion of the people, while in fact behind the scenes he is engaging in slimy or questionable deals as bad as any he claims are being carried on by members of the city administration.
Last week it took from 9 AM to 4 PM before the commission finally managed to start discussion on the consent agenda, normally the first substantive order of business at each commission meeting.
In recent weeks we saw one commission meeting abruptly adjourned and another turned into hours in fruitless ranting over the behavior of the City Manager - who in his own game of fuck you, announced that he was resigning and decided not to show up for the meeting where it had been anticipated that he would demonstrate that he was not a patsy, but in fact that's what he turned out to be - and where Diaz de la Portilla first revealed that with 3 votes in his pocket he quickly intended to consolidate power by nominating himself as the new chairman of the OMNI CRA, and his partner in crime Manolo Reyes as the DDA Chairman thereby demonstrating a not so subtle act of payback to Commissioner Russell for financing the campaign of one of his opponents by stripping him of these chairmanships that he had previously held. but then whined about losing.
Not only was all of this this anticipated - - but the fact that I was able to document what would happen two days in advance either made me a fortune teller, or the recipient of inside information, information that could only have come as a result of these decisions being made behind closed doors and in violation of the Sunshine Law.
As far as Carollo and Diaz de la Portilla are concerned none of this matters because none of them fear that the Miami-Dade State Attorney will raise so much as her pinky against any of them.
They are, after all members of the Cuban Family and Friends Plan and given the choice, the State attorney would sooner subject herself to criticism over the refusal to deal with the rape of 14 year old girl by a cop than to ever go after one of these powerful Cuban politicians for anything having to do with public corruption.
All of that however, was old news.
Last week things got exponentially crazier as the members of the commission decided to jump the shark, and even for Miami, what occurred should be enough to make those hardened by the ongoing shit show that passes for municipal governance in Miami realize that the brazenness of these guys is only matched by the cluelessness and cowardice of the Mayor, Commissioners Russell and Hardemon, who with only a couple months to go before he resigns to run for county commission has decided that obsequious acquiesce is the safest course of action to avoid attacks.
THE ILLEGALLY PAINTED PUERTO RICAN FLAG ON THE LA PLACITA RESTAURANT
Of the many examples of just how crazy and lawless the city of Miami has become in the less that Diaz de la Portilla has been around was last week's appeal of a unanimous decision by the city's Historic Preservation Board against the owners of the La Placita restaurant in the MIMO Historic District on Biscayne Boulevard.
It was a decision that almost everyone, other than the owners of the restaurant, agree was appropriate for their violation of the provisions of the city's historic preservation code that resulted when they painted an illegal Puerto Rican flag on the side of the 3 story building where their restaurant is located.
, providing photos, documents and videos that detailed how the flag came to be painted on the building; the failure of the restaurant owners to get the proper permits or a certificate of appropriateness; the attendance of the mayor during the time that the flag was being painted; the complaints to the mayor at the time by the people in the neighborhood upset with the flag being painted; the appearance of code enforcement officers who informed the restaurant owners that what they were doing was illegal and how the owners chose to ignore that information, and the appearance before the Historic Presentation Board by Joey Cancel, one of the owners and the spokesman for the group, who, when all his other arguments were rejected declared that the members of the Preservation Board should really thank him for revealing the loophole that he and his partners had exploited - the bogus Special Event Permit issued by the police department - to paint the building, and that as a thank you, the board should give him the After-The-Fact Permit, and then do whatever they needed to do so that no one else could pull a stunt like this again.
It was a classic Miami hustle, and after the commissioners chose not to vote on their appeal but instructed them to go back to the Preservation Board and work out an agreement with the MIMO Association to replace the flag with a neon representation that had surfaced an an alternative that could lead to a compromise, Cancel did go back a second time, and told the Preservation Board that the cost of the neon replacement was more than they were willing to pay and that he would prefer that they reject his appeal again so he could return before the city commission where he and his partners believed they stood a better chance of prevailing.
They did return last week, and it turned out to be a bigger shit show than the first go-around last summer.
"HOW MANY PUERTO RICANS DO YOU HAVE ON YOUR BOARD?"
Because of all of the craziness that took place earlier in the day, the appeal over whether removing the flag was legal or illegal started at approximately 7:55 PM, and ended at 9:50 PM. To watch the full hearing, you can click , and then go to 1:30:17.
I'll bypass most of comments that were either irrelevant to the the "facts" of this case because in this case, as in all of the other appeals that come before the commission as part of a quasi-judicial hearing most of what the commissioners and Joey Cancel said were irrelevant to the material issues being appealed.
In this appeal the real, and only issues that required discussion and a decision were based on compliance, or lack of compliance with the specific language in the ordinance that sets the parameters for what is allowed to be painted on buildings in a Historic District.
It was in fact a pretty straight forward, cut and dried process issue that centered on whether or not the owners of the restaurant should be allowed to keep the painted Puerto Rican flag on the side of the building even though they had failed to acquire the required permits and certificate of appropriateness allowing them to paint the flag to begin with, and whether the flag complied with the provisions of the historic preservation paramaters established and approved by the City Commissioners several years ago.
In the midst of of articulating the MIMO Board's position, Commissioner Diaz de la Portilla chose to inject the unwarranted and unjustifiable issue of ethnicity into the discussion by asking Alisa Cepeda, the President of the MIMO Association, "How many Puerto Ricans do you have on your board?"
It caught Cepeda by complete surprise, as evidenced by the look that came on her face.
It was clear that this was not an innocuous question but was intended to imply that her group's opposition against the Puerto Rican flag remaining on the wall was not because the restaurant owners had acted illegally, but because her group was not sufficiently populated by Puerto Ricans.
Diaz de la Portilla played a version of the race card, and he did it on purpose, just like his cohort Carollo had played the race card in previous meetings and earlier in the meeting after Commissioner Hardemon raised the issue of race in response to Diaz de la Portilla efforts to nominate his choices to be the Vice Chairmen of the two CRA's.
NUMBER 19 - JANUARY 27, 2020
Copyrighted: 2011,2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
Imagine if you will what accusations of racism would have come his way if instead of a Puerto Rican flag, some other restaurant owner had decided, in the same fashion, to illegally paint a flag from an African country on the wall of their building and the MIMO group group showed up with the same arguments, and Commissioner Keon Hardemon had asked these MIMO folks, "How many Black people do you have on your board?"
It ws an unconscionable insult to the members of the MIMO Association - a group who by the way I have not always agreed with - to be treated this way.
In truth, the MIMO members could all be pokka/dotted members of a cult from Mars and it wouldn't have any factual bearing on whether or not the owners of the restaurant had behaved illegally and with impunity by continuing to allow the flag painted on the side of the building after the code enforcement officer who showed up told them that what they were doing was illegal.
To add insult to injury, and illustrating how, from the beginning when the Mayor showed up while the flag was being painted, the restaurant owners believed that they had nothing to worry about because they had the city officials in their pocket, was that not only had City Manager, Emilio "Colonel Klink" Gonzalez made it a point to have supper at the restaurant days after they opened, but then sent out a tweet talking about how the place was so popular there was a standing room crowd waiting to get in.
The suffering of the Puerto Rican people, which has been significant, has nothing to do with the efforts of a couple rich and famous Puerto Ricans who came to Maimi and gamed the system to exploit the flag of Puerto Rico as a marketing tool, and for the Mayor of Miami to ignore and refuse to stand up to support the laws of Miami, or to support the employees entrusted with enforcing those laws, much less to go out of his way to undermine the efforts of a local community group to protect itself against such a flagrant violation of rules that he, himself voted to approve and enforce is just another example of why he too is a sniveling, whiny sellout.
In Miami, everything passes through a prism of racial and ethnic politics, and with the current bunch of corrupt Cuban gangsters at Miami City Hall who now believe that with a 3 vote majority they can behave with wanton impunity, this is but the beginning of a long spiral of corrupt and self-dealing decisions that will not end well for them, or for the residents of the city.
Miami is now a real Banana Republic, Bitches!
After Thursday night's hearing, which resulted in a typically crazy decision proposed by Commissioner "Comemierda" Carollo, that allows the flag to remain unless and until another illegal mural in the MIMO District is removed, thereby invoking socialist principles of collective rewards and punishments, the mayor was asked about the decision and was quoted in the Miami Herald article as saying:
Really? An illegal act committed by a couple slick restaurant owners who gamed the system becomes a victory for the Puerto Rican people?